Nowhere to go on Pebble Lake [UPDATED]Published 11:09am Monday, May 9, 2011 Updated 11:09am Monday, May 9, 2011
Patricia and Merhle Messer live on the west side of Pebble Lake Road, but the lake’s high waters have still managed to threaten them. Sandbags line either side of their gravel driveway, with water threatening to breach the makeshift dike on both sides.
“We’ve been rebuilding our driveway for the last three years,” said Patricia, who estimated that the couple has poured over $2,000 into repairs on the dirt corridor which is the only exit from their home.
“Our house, luckily, is on a hill, but we have water all the way around.”
The ring of water around the Messers’ home may soon look even more like a moat, as the couple is trying to decide if they can afford a raised bridge driveway to connect their house to the road.
The Messers’ property isn’t the only one that has been hit hard by the rising lake water. Pebble Lake Golf Course is suffering from large sloughs near a few of their holes, and their pumping project into Pebble Lake was halted last month after only three days.
The reason? The lake itself was getting too full.
“We’re working with the city on the situation that everybody’s having with the high water level,” said golf course Superintendent Rick Odden.
The city itself is experiencing problems. Overflowing water has closed a road in Delagoon Park (between the soccer field and the softball field), and Pebble Beach has been reduced to a thin stretch of sand. Parks and Recreation Manager Steve Plaza added that a new pier on the lake that was supposed to be dedicated soon has not been installed yet.
“We wanted to get it out there prior to fishing opener weekend, but right now, the place where it anchors into the shore is underwater,” he said.
On May 2, the city started its annual pumping of the lake into the Otter Tail River. Though the city is trying to get the water down from its May 2 level of 1,200.5 feet to the ordinary high water level of 1,196.6, Public Works Director Anne Martens said pumping is limited by a DNR permit, which cuts off pumping efforts at 30 million gallons a month. Currently, the city pumps about 2 million gallons a day out of the lake.
Because of the permit, said Martens, normally the city “cannot start pumping until Wahpeton (N.D.) is out of flood stage.” This year, Fergus Falls received special permission to start pumping before then, but Martens said the city is still closely monitoring water conditions in Wahpeton, which is downstream from Fergus Falls on the Otter Tail River.
“We try to respect our downstream neighbors,” she said.
The city’s permanent pumping project on Pebble Lake was instituted in 2009. Since then, the city has been unable to bring down the lake to normal high water levels, although it has come close on occasion.
“Our hands are tied by our permit,” said Martens. “The city’s doing whatever they can to work within (those) parameters.”
However, Martens said the city is in talks with the DNR and other state agencies to get some of the terms of the pumping permit relaxed, enabling the project to pump more water and possibly returning Pebble Lake to normal levels.
Even without those changes, Martens said a successful drawdown was certainly within the city’s reach.
“It all depends on rainfall,” she said. “It’s not unfeasible for us to do it.”